Greece headed for a cliffhanger vote on austerity measures needed to keep the bailout on track as a 48-hour general strike began and European officials squabbled over the timing of a deal to unlock rescue funds.
European Union Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn, speaking at a meeting of Group of 20 finance chiefs in Mexico City, said yesterday that a deal must be made at a meeting of EU finance ministers in Brussels on Nov. 12. A European G-20 official, speaking before Rehn and on condition of anonymity, cast doubt on the prospects for that deadline, saying officials may fall short.
Samaras must face down dissent within his three-party coalition to get the measures approved, with the Democratic Left party’s lawmakers saying they won’t vote for the bill because of proposed changes to labor law that among other things will cut wages for public workers. Unions began a 48-hour general strike today to protest against the measures, which will be voted on as soon as tomorrow and followed by another vote on the 2013 budget on Nov. 11.
The European official who questioned the Nov. 12 target and spoke on condition of anonymity because the negotiations aren’t public said next week’s Brussels meeting will be a step in the process. A package deal has to include both prior actions by the Greek government on fiscal and economic measures and an agreement from creditors on filling the country’s finance gap and making debt sustainable. A list of options is being reviewed, the official said.